The entire group of riders--which totals 10,000--rides from a city on the west side of Iowa to a community on the east side. Tradition dictates that riders dip their back tires in the Missouri River, and, once they reach it, their front tries in the Mississippi.
RAGBRAI's website states that, in 1973, a few friends got together for "a casual bike ride across Iowa." Thirty-eight years later, RAGBRAI is the longest, largest and oldest bicycle touring event in the world. More than 200 other bike rides in the United States were inspired by RAGBRAI's path, which changes each year.
This year, weekly riders will pedal 454 miles across the state, while daily riders will travel anywhere from 56 to 74 miles in one day. Since its inception, however, more than 275,650 people have pedaled 16,907 total miles. Since the 25th ride in 1997, RAGBRAI has passed through each of Iowa's 99 counties. Furthermore, the various paths have passed through 780 towns and, this year, the path visits a small town 10 miles east of my home.
At night, when the riders pitch their tents in their respective spots, the parties start. RAGBRAI teams have a well-earned reputation for hard partying and heavy drinking, though some are serious cyclists. Truthfully, I will be aiding them this year--from 8 a.m. on, I am scheduled to sell beer and hot dogs.
I've heard stories of the partying, of the food. Of the sleeping in the tents.
I have two friends who have completed the trail; one, sadly, fell ill. I admire his endurance--he didn't stop until he reached the Mississippi (and even if he didn't, I am going to pretend he did, because it's an admirable feat). There have been injuries over the years, and a few people have died, mostly because of accidents, heart attacks. I worry for the riders this year, as they will be battling a hot, eternal disaster. The sun glares upon their backs as they pedal up hills and past wind turbines. The hot, messy, bug-ridden, Midwesternly-windy Iowa countryside.
If anything should be called "epic," it should be RAGBRAI.
I look forward to seeing the riders on today, to serving them and inviting them to explore handicrafts inspired by their athletic vitality.
fashionably geek__________Ten Thousand Villages
To see read more about RAGBRAI and see some photos of my experience (working for the riders), go here.